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SFPD Urge Pokémon Go Safety Precautions

Police warn people to take measures while playing the hottest new game

Unless the server is down (again) or everyone’s battery has died, there is basically a 2-to-1 chance any given person you meet in San Francisco today will be playing Pokémon GO. Fess up, half of you reading this are probably playing it right now.

This is great news for Pokémon publisher Nintendo and Pokemon GO developer Niantic Labs (one of Google’s many offspring). But it’s a potential pain for cops, and for the few players unlucky enough to be graphically injured while playing, be lured into street crime, stumble onto a gruesome crime scene, or accidentally destroy their own phones.

The problem with Silicon Valley’s new augmented reality gaming trend is that the non-augmented reality continues to be real.

Showing more patience and personal humor than you’d perhaps expect, Raj Vaswani, captain of SFPD’s Bayview Station, issued a few safety guidelines for San Francisco players. Of note:

"Do not run into trees, meters, and things attached to sidewalks. They hurt."

"Do not ride your bike/skateboard/hipster techie device while interacting with the app."

"Do not go into private property, dark alleys, or areas that you usually would not go."

"Tell your kids about stranger-danger."

Perhaps a bigger accomplishment than the game’s commercial success is that it got SFPD to use the words "Pokemon," "techie," "hipster," and "stranger-danger" in a single official communication.

As amusing as this is, people really should pay attention to the guidelines. The app is loads of fun, but it does seem to have accidentally lent itself to a few particular brands of disaster. Ghost Pokemon are more common at night, for example, and locals have spotted them floating around the Tenderloin. What could go wrong?

The game is just an algorithm that sprinkles features across GPS maps. Pokemon don’t know they’re in a bad neighborhood or, potentially, right in front of a lamppost. Common sense is a necessary accessory. We’re still waiting on an app for that, though.